Jaime Rotsky (BA: Psychology and Film, Television, & Media double-major, 2019) is currently the National Geographic (NatGeo) Program Strategy & Content Planning Manager at The Walt Disney Company.

If you think that sounds like an interesting job title but don’t really know what it means, you are in good company. In fact, despite Rotsky’s own lifelong plan to work in the entertainment industry, she only learned that jobs like hers exist a few years ago. Among other things, her position plays a central role in deciding what content airs on NatGeo and when that content airs. She hears and votes on pitches for shows, decides which content to run at various points of the year, and even determines which episodes will play hourly throughout the day. If your favorite NatGeo travel documentary aired at 8pm last Tuesday, for example, it is likely that Rotsky was instrumental in deciding that. 

Rotsky got an early preview of some of those duties while serving as Programming Director for WolvTV, U-M’s student-run TV station. That job involved greenlighting and shaping content for the station, and Rotsky believes it was instrumental in getting her into the TV industry. 

Rotsky pictured with the actor Charles Esten at a CMT event

“I think that made my resume stand out,” says Rotsky. “Because of that, I was accepted into my first programming internship with CMT (Country Music Television) and spent a summer in Nashville.”

The experience at CMT was not quite what she expected at first, but it introduced her to the work that would become her career. 

“I walked in thinking I was going to be greenlighting shows and hearing pitches again,” she recalls. “But I learned then that ‘programming’ has a million different meanings in this industry. Yes, there's the side of programming that's more in touch with production. But there is also the side that is more about content strategy. That is what I walked into then and what I still spend most of my time doing now.”

In Rotsky’s job at NatGeo, she balances a plethora of different responsibilities. In addition to scheduling and voting on content for the channel, she manages her team, teaches interns and new employees, and communicates with countless other people inside and outside of the network. That diversity of duties requires her to mentally shift gears often throughout the day. 

“My job involves a lot of meetings, conversations, and collaborative work but also a lot of what I call head-down work,” she explains. “For instance, right now I am working on scheduling the next few months at a series level—figuring out which series will play in which month. But I’m also filling in the actual episode information: which individual episodes I want for each day of the week. At the same time, as I give my greenlight feedback today, that will pertain to shows that will air anytime between now and 2027. Then maybe I’ll have to work on prepping information for ad sales. Or maybe I’ll have to come up with marathon ideas that would do well on social media. On top of all that, I am evaluating and shaping the projects my associates are working on and mentoring my intern when I have one. Overall, I’m balancing a lot of information, making sure everyone else has accurate information, coming up with new plans, constantly revising old plans, and managing people.”

Rotsky enjoys many aspects of her job but is most passionate about two: shaping the creative content of the channel and managing her team.

Involvement in the creative process is something she always wanted. In fact, the Cleveland-born Rotsky based her decision to attend U-M—archrival of the rest of her OSU-educated family—mostly on the strength of U-M’s screenwriting program.

But she realized quickly that the life of a screenwriter was not for her. She wanted to be involved in creative work, but she also wanted a traditional 9-5, so to speak, with the consistency and financial stability that comes with it. Rotsky believes her career is an ideal way to balance those priorities.

Rotsky pictured with her boyfriend Zach at a NatGeo premiere event

Rotsky’s career also balances skills she learned from both the Screenwriting and Psychology halves of her degree. 

“I like to say that a lot of what I do now is a merging of creativity and data analysis,” she explains, “so I draw on both the screenwriting and psychology side of things a lot. I obviously rely on the screenwriting when evaluating pitches and so on. But when it comes to my Psychology degree, I think one of the most important aspects is one that may be unpopular: learning stats. A lot of my job is about giving viewers what they want, and the best way to listen to viewers and hear what they want is through data. That is my communication line with them. I can only know what is or isn’t working through studying trends and viewer behaviors. So learning how to understand what is significant, or what is the best way to pick an average—all of that is really helpful. I actually encourage anyone to learn stats because very few professions don't benefit from understanding data.”

But Rotsky has realized over time that she is just as passionate about managing and mentoring others at work, and her Psychology degree has helped with that as well.

“My Psychology degree is very helpful when it comes to managing and motivating people,” she says. “I think my interpersonal skills are much better because of it, and that applies not only to ‘managing down’ as a supervisor but also to how I work with higher-ups and other teams. I think studying psychology just helps you develop a higher level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence that you need when managing people. For example, even just learning about something like the fundamental attribution error can be so helpful. You know, we have this tendency when someone does something bad to think that they are doing it because they are a bad person instead of considering the circumstances that may have driven them to do what they did. My Psychology degree helps me stop myself in those kinds of situations and say, ‘Jaime, you have a bias right now and need to reset your focus.’”

Overall, stats aside, Rotsky believes the most important takeaways from a Psychology degree are all about empathy.

“In a workplace context and almost anywhere else, I think learning psychology helps you learn how to best position yourself and others for success. I like to joke that psychology helps you learn to manipulate people, but it’s like manipulating them in a good way,” she laughs. “It teaches you to understand people so you can know how to get the best out of them—and how to help them get the best out of themselves.”